GOP Senators Lean on Constitutional Argument, Remain Opposed to Trump Conviction

The U.S. Senate will hear hours of testimony in the case to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, but many GOP senators already have made up their minds that they'll vote against a conviction.

"I've continued to say that it is not constitutional to impeach and convict a former president," Senator Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, told reporters Wednesday. "Do we go back to Jefferson? Do we go back to Johnson again? Do we go back to Kennedy?"

The Senate voted 56-44 on Tuesday to continue with the trial after hearing arguments over whether it is legal to convict a president on an impeachment charge after he's left office. Six Republicans joined all 48 Democrats and two Independents in agreeing that they have the constitutional authority to hold a trial, though that doesn't mean they will vote to convict Trump.

The 44 senators who voted against moving forward with the trial largely remained steadfast in their positions against conviction on Wednesday.

Trump's term expired January 20, and he's since stayed at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has been a top ally of Trump, told reporters he spoke to the former president after the first day of trial.

"I reinforced to the president, the case is over. It's just a matter of getting the final verdict now," Graham said.

Senator Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, told reporters that he also expects the 44, including himself, who voted against continuing the trial will vote against conviction. He spent much of the day sitting in the upper Senate gallery where he said he has a better view and it's "not quite as crowded."

"If you think you don't have jurisdiction, you can't convict, so I'd be very surprised," he said.

Several senators, including many Republicans, took notes throughout the House impeachment managers' presentations on Wednesday. The arguments included footage from Trump rallies, slides of Trump's tweets dating back months and comments from arrested rioters who claimed they were obeying the president's commands.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, forced a vote on the question of whether the Senate can try someone who's no longer in office. It was shot down 55-45.

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy was the only Republican who flipped his position on the vote on Tuesday. Cassidy, of Louisiana, told reporters that he went into the trial open to hearing arguments over whether it is constitutional.

"At the end of the day, clearly it had been established that it was constitutional," he said.

Senate impeachment
In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, Lead Impeachment Manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) speaks on the first day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. congress.gov/Getty